Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tire Erosion Control

It’s not unusual for rural properties to contain an area or two that were used as dump sites for trash and other discarded items. Blue Jay Barrens has a few dumps, but of course there hasn’t been anything added to them since I bought the property. I believe that somewhere in their minds these people knew that dumping trash was not the right thing to do. To ease their guilt, they all subscribed to the popular rural myth that dumping junk onto an actively eroding area would stop the erosion and heal the earth. I’ve never had any of these people give me a good explanation of how a pile of trash can promote healing.

When I began managing Blue Jay Barrens, this was a site of active erosion. Water flowing from the hilltop to the right dropped over a low embankment and scoured away the soil as it fell. A double row of tires and other miscellaneous junk concentrated the water flow as it moved downhill and caused tiny gullies to form between the tires. Long deltas of mud formed where the water emerged from the junk. When I began clearing the surrounding prairies eleven years ago, I covered the whole junk pile with small cedars. I didn’t have time to remove all of the junk, so I thought I would just do what I could to stop the erosion and stabilize the area.

The erosion has been stopped and the cedars have decomposed to the point where the tires are once again visible. It’s obvious that the tires were placed in a particular arrangement and not just thrown from a wagon or truck. The tires were set in neat rows and in areas where the eroded area were deepest, the tires were stacked. I suppose the tires were originally placed up against the edge of the embankment, but then the embankment eroded further and left the tires behind.

I have to commend the creators of this tire wall for getting every mile they could out of these tires. Had they been more safety conscious, I would probably have twice as many discarded tires, all having a little bit of tread left.

I packed the gap between tires and embankment with small cedars and then piled cedars about four feet deep over the tires. As the cedar decomposed, leaves accumulated in the resulting void and provided a filter for the water. Now instead of cascading like a waterfall, the water slowly filters through the leaves.

Vegetation has claimed the area downstream of the pile. There is currently no active erosion on this site. If this was a tall grass site, you’d never see the trash. Now that the cedar pile has rotted down to almost nothing, even the short grass does a good job of hiding the dump. A healthy White Flowering Dogwood is helping to camouflage the site.

Some of the material they dumped here has actually provided good habitat for some of the prairie dwellers. I’ve seen skinks and fence lizards sunning on these discarded fence posts. Mice and voles and a variety of insects have found shelter in this pile of timbers.

Sitting at the base of one post was this pile of strange curls. They might be tiny parchments or curls of old tape or shavings from some type of craft project. Actually, they’re curled belly scales from a shed snake skin. I can imagine a Black Rat Snake living here. That probably makes this a less desirable place for the small rodents to hang out.

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